Vision and Values
On 12 January 2009, 16 western Buddhist practitioners were sealed in three-year retreat at Vajradhara Gonpa. We won’t have news of them until 2012, but you can learn more about three-year retreats and how to apply for a future retreat on the Siddhartha’s Intent Vajradhara Gonpa page. Here Jakob Leschly discusses some perspectives that are the basis of Buddhist three-year retreat.

With the emergence and subsequent spread of Tibetan Buddhism far beyond its original Himalayan homelands, teachers such as Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse have worked tirelessly to promote the a vision of basic goodness. Over the last thirty 30 years, in seeking to guide others to find peace and happiness, Rinpoche has engaged with western audiences, sometimes teaching philosophy, sometimes teaching meditation, sometimes being a traditional Buddhist master, sometimes being a contemporary film maker.

The three-year retreat at Vajradhara Gonpa is one of Rinpoche’s many initiatives. It is a space in which individuals can take time out to unravel confusion and cultivate wisdom, become familiar with the Buddhist traditions of theory and method, and ultimately become of service to the greater community. Retreatants are individuals who are concerned with the ultimate happiness of sentient beings. Discarding the cocoon of their comfort zone, they establish grounding in truthfulness and selflessness. They become beacons for others, inspiring trust in basic goodness and the value of human existence.

Causality and Change

Buddhism asserts causality. Nothing happens without our participation. Our suffering and happiness are contingent on our actions, confusion and wisdom are contingent on our actions. In turn, the value of our actions is contingent on the attitudes behind. In Buddhism, these actions and attitudes are seen as conditions that we can work with and change, which is the purpose of the Buddhist path. Throughout his teaching, the Buddha empowered individuals to take control of their existence, and ultimately to free themselves.

The three-year retreat that just began at Vajradhara Gonpa is based on the Buddha’s vision of such trust in the basic goodness and workability of our existence, and the realization that vision without practical integration is only a passing thought; to penetrate the inertia and dullness of habit we need the discipline of meditation. Actually sitting down and being present is to establish a mental calm where sanity can emerge, a gap where our habitual patterns can give way to an insight that can see through the deceptions of habitual ignorance.

Retreat Is to Take Responsibility

Retreat practice is not done to enhance and glorify our person, or to gain a small piece of nirvana. Retreat is to take responsibility for our being, liberating our mind, and consequently dedicating ourselves to the welfare of the world. Everyone recognizes the need for wisdom, peace, compassion; everyone cherishes such noble ideals. Yet sometimes it seems that no one actually believes they can be translated into reality. Buddhist meditation challenges such a poverty mentality. Basic goodness is inherent to all sentient life, but the objective of the Buddhist path is to actually make it manifest. The Buddha taught in order that we can claim this natural inheritance, and consequently contribute to dispelling the gloom and poverty of the world.